Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day


Genocide is not just an event in the past. It is happening now. Whole villages are being destroyed in Darfur, Sudan, in a war that has been going on for fifteen years, and the past few months have seen the eruption of mass violence and ‘ethnic cleansing’ against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

Holocaust Memorial Day is a challenge to reflect on the atrocious things human beings are capable of doing to each other. Beginning with the Nazi holocaust of 1933-45, the remembrance now includes other genocides such as the fanatical ‘Year Zero’ project in Cambodia in the 1970s, the inter-tribal bloodbath in Rwanda in 1994 and the massacre of Muslims in Bosnia in 1995.

Genocide is of course only the extreme end of the spectrum of violence. Millions of people have suffered, and are still suffering, through war and terrorism.

Atrocities are not confined to one religion, ideology or nationality. Their perpetrators can be Christians, Communists, Muslims, Buddhists, Europeans, Asians or Africans, as can their victims. Nor are they caused only by exceptionally nasty people. The damage is often done by ordinary people doing their job or resisting what they perceive as a threat to their way of life. Rather than labelling particular individuals or nations as ‘evil’, we need to face the uncomfortable truth that the ability to hate and to kill is part of the human nature we all share.

At the same time, human beings are capable of rising to great acts of courage, reconciliation and generosity. Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember the past constructively, to reflect on its lessons, and to commit ourselves to creating a better future.

Here at USW we are observing the day on Friday 26th January. The Reflection Room at the Meeting House will be open from 9.00 to 4.30, and there will be an opportunity for anyone to come and light a candle and/or spend some time in prayer or quiet reflection.

This, meaningful as it may be, is of course not enough. The suffering people of the world need more than our ‘thoughts and prayers’. They need our willingness to pursue justice, to speak and act on their behalf. They need our readiness to change our ways even if it costs us something. We can use Holocaust Memorial Day to do some practical thinking about how we ourselves can help to make a more peaceful and humane world. After all, If we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem.

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A Gay Christian Minister Comes Out

A Gay Christian Minister Comes Out

Ray Vincent, Associate Chaplain


The attitude of Christian churches towards homosexuality has generally been negative, and in many places still is. Forty years ago it took great courage on the part of a few Christians to speak up for greater acceptance, and especially to come out publicly about their own sexuality.

The exhibition ‘Christian Voices Coming Out’ that is being shown at the Meeting House this week tells the story of some of these people and of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement which they founded in 1976. It is a refreshing reminder that there are Christians who believe that the God whose character is shown in Jesus of Nazareth loves all people and rejoices in variety.

I recently experienced this personally in a heart-warming way. The exhibition was shown over the weekend at St David’s Uniting Church, Pontypridd, where I am a member. We backed it up with the showing of a film called For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary about some families in America and the different ways in which they reacted to their children being lesbian or gay. Following the film, I was interviewed by the minister about my own experience.

One or two people in the church already knew I was gay, and offered warm acceptance and support, as have many others over the years, but this was the first time for me to come out to a whole congregation. It was a lovely experience of being warmly embraced (literally by some and in spirit by many more!). At the end of the meeting, someone who was already in the know about what was going to happen brought out a cake to celebrate the occasion!

If only all churches were like that! We can only pray that one day they will be.

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February is LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month. Even the name is controversial. We used to talk just about “gay people” and “gay history”, but in recent years there is a growing recognition that human sexuality takes many different forms. To assume that everybody is either “gay” or “straight” leaves many people feeling their situation is not recognised or understood.

LGBT stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual”, but this does not cover all the issues and the people affected by them, so the term we use tends to grow. The longest version currently is LGBTTQQIAAP! It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally and pansexual. But who knows? Before long that too may appear insufficient. In any case, some people argue about which order the letters should be in!

Surely what we are really looking for is a society that respects and honours people. People come in all shapes and sizes. They differ not only in gender and sexuality, but also in race, language, culture, religion, age, ability and lots of other things. To believe that every one of them is a unique and precious individual is often difficult, but is a challenge worth facing.

In recent months we seem to have moved further away from that aspiration. Partly as a result of the Brexit vote and of the anxiety about migrants and refugees, racism and xenophobia seem to have become more acceptable. In many places there is suspicion and hatred of Muslims in general because of the actions of a few terrorists. And now there are serious threats to tolerance and freedom coming from the new administration in the United States.

In this worrying and depressing situation there are, thank God, a few candles being lit. The University of South Wales is now working with Stonewall to become a “diversity champion”. As part of this, some of us attended a Stonewall conference last week about inclusiveness in the workplace. There were more than 200 people there from companies and organisations all over Wales, discussing how both employers and employees can achieve an environment in which everybody can feel safe and respected for who they are – not only accepted but visible. Speakers reminded us that someone who is constantly trying to hide an important part of who they are will not be able to concentrate so well on their work or to communicate so freely with colleagues. So an open, inclusive environment is not just right and fair – it is good for business efficiency too.

We heard from some brave and inspiring people. La Chun Lindsay, born in South Carolina, had to fight for acceptance of her colour, her sexuality and her ambition as a woman to be an engineer. She is now the Managing Director of GE Aviation Wales, the biggest industrial employer in Wales. Anjeli Patel, a professional services consultant and a trans-sexual, told us of her long journey to full acceptance by family, friends and employers. Both these women are pioneers who are now working hard to make the way easier for others.

Standing for the equal value of individuals in all their variety seems in some ways harder than it was, but it is more necessary than ever. We are stronger together.

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Science, Religion and Magick

This was the title of a lecture given by Dr Rhobert Lewis, Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science, at the Meeting House on Thursday.
The reason for the odd spelling of ‘Magick’, he said, is that he was thinking not in the modern sense of doing tricks for entertainment but in the old sense of ‘magick’ as one of the ways in which the world could be explained and influenced. In a world in which so many things are unpredictable and unexplained, human beings find three ways of trying to cope. They can work things out for themselves by observation and experiment (science), they can relate to a God or gods (religion), or they can try to understand and experiment with unexplained forces (‘magick’).
As science became more confident and religion more dogmatic and all-embracing, ‘magick’ tended to slip into the background and become labelled as ‘superstition’, and therefore false. Science and religion remained, but these were for a long time seen as the same thing. They were both about pursuing truth, finding out about God and how God created the world.
Dr Lewis traced the process by which an apparent conflict arose between science and religion. In modern times science has achieved spectacular success in changing the world we live in, while religion has often got stuck in unbending dogma. First Galileo and then Darwin were attacked by religious people because their theories were seen as inconsistent with what it was thought God had revealed in the Bible. Today there are religious people who preach ‘creationism’ and regard ‘intelligent design’ as a theory on a par with other scientific theories, and there are scientists who claim that science is the only explanation for everything and religion is irrational superstition.
These conflicts, Dr Lewis said, are between competing dogmas rather than between science and religion as such. Science, like religion, is universal but also incomplete. There are questions that science cannot answer, such as why the laws of nature are what they are, whether anything exists completely outside the world as we can know it (such as before the Big Bang, or for us after our own death), and the question of why anything exists at all. Religion that deals with question like this is as natural and necessary as it ever was, and need not be in opposition to science or in competition with it. Even ‘magic’ in the sense of wondering at the beauty and mystery of the world, still has its place. Science and religion can both evoke this sense of wonder that goes beyond any explanation.
The lecture touched on many questions, handling them in a plain, honest way that could be understood by lay people – in both senses, scientific and religious. It was a very informative and stimulating contribution to the Chaplaincy’s series of occasional lectures.
If you have any comments or would like to discuss these questions further, please feel free to contact a Chaplain or call in at the Meeting House any time. We would also be grateful for any suggestions you may have about other topics that could be the subject of a Chaplaincy lecture.

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Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January

Once again we will be observing this day at the Meeting House. The Forum will be open from 11 am to 3 pm with an opportunity to reflect quietly, look at some pictures, and light a candle.

Why are we doing that? How will our remembering help us? What will it achieve?

The day originated as a commemoration of the horrific systematic killing of six million Jews by the Nazi regime in Germany and neighbouring countries. But over the years it has broadened to include other shameful atrocities.  The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust calls upon people also to “remember the millions of people killed in … subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

We need to remember too that the Nazi Holocaust itself targeted other groups such as gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities, religious minorities such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others. We can also remember the many communities and individuals who have been sacrificed to the promotion of an ideology, the ambitions and insecurities of a tyrant, or the profits of a company.

Our reason for remembering is not so that we can pick out people to blame: to do this is to miss the whole point. In the words of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, this day is “a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented”.

So Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time not just to remember what certain people and regimes have done, but what the human nature we all share is capable of doing. To label people and regard them as inferior is the first step towards de-humanizing them, ceasing to care about them, treating them in ways we would not normally treat human beings, and eventually wanting to “exterminate” them.  Being honest about this is perhaps the first necessary step to preventing such things happening again.

But Holocaust Memorial Day can also be a time to think of the good that is in human nature and our ability to create a better world. Our different religions, and the values of many who do not have a religious faith, maintain that every human being, regardless of all the things that make us different from one another, is unique and sacred. Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves of this and commit ourselves to expressing it in our life today. If marking Holocaust Memorial Day takes any way towards this then we’re on our way to achieving its goal.

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Food bank reliance in the UK triples

A recent study by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty says that more than half a million UK people may rely on food banks, three times as many in 2012 as in the previous year.

It sites benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living for the growth in hunger and poverty. Oxfam said: “Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger.”

The report, which was backed by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest provider of food banks, calls the amount of food poverty in the UK, the seventh richest country in the world, a “national disgrace”.

The local Foodbank is a local response to this need. People can be referred to it by doctors, social workers etc. and receive an emergency package of three days’ food supply, together with advice and support to help them cope with their situation.

Chaplaincy at the Meeting House is a collection point for the Foodbank. Gifts of non-perishable food (rice, pasta, tea bags, sugar, dried or tinned food of various kinds) can be brought into the Meeting House at any time.

The need is all the year round, but this week we are making a special appeal culminating in  a short Harvest service on Friday, 18th October in the Meeting House from 12.15 to 12.45. You may bring your gifts to this service or come in with them at any other time.

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HCF Prayers October 2013

As you come to pray you may like to read Matthew 25:31-46. This is a difficult passage for many of us. For some it’s difficult because it talks about judgement, about separating the sheep from the goats, and we don’t like the idea of judgment. For others it’s difficult because what it seems to say is that our lives are judged by what we do, – and that seems to contradict the very heart of the gospel, that we are accepted in and through Christ.

Whatever we make of Jesus words here, the one thing they supremely do is underline how important to God it is that we don’t only talk about loving people, but actually do it. How we respond to the hungry, the foreigner, the sick and those who’ve made a mess of their lives reveals whether the faith we profess is real, or not.

But there’s also a promise here; the promise that every act of love, every cup of water given in Jesus name, will somehow contribute to and be part of the coming Kingdom of God. We pray ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done’ in our lives as well as with our lips.

Please pray this month especially for:

  • New students across the faculty as they find their feet and settle in; and for their families both here in Wales and in some cases overseas.


  • Members of staff as they adjust to all the changes over the summer.


  • For staff and patients of Aneurin Bevan Hospital, Ebbw Vale


  • For the Welsh Assembly Govt as they make decisions about the allocation of resources across Wales


  • For children and young people who arrive in hospital emergency departments suffering the effects of alcohol. In the last year 283 under-age drinkers were taken to hospitals in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and 221 to hospitals in Cardiff and the Vale.


  • Pray for the staff and clients of the Cardiff Alcohol Treatment Centre that operates in the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights. Pray too for other town centres across the region without such a centre and the health care professionals who work there.


  • For all health care professionals who are demoralised and discouraged for any reason.


  • Pray for Health Care Professionals across Europe as each country faces the challenges of greater financial austerity. Pray for those responsible for public policy, that they might be inspired by creativity and compassion.


  • As you offer yourself and your work to God, pray the Lord’s prayer: ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven.’
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HCF Prayers September 2013

Jesus wept,

            and in his weeping

                        he joined himself forever

                        to those who mourn.

            He stands now throughout all time,

                        this Jesus weeping

                                    with his arms about the weeping ones:

            ‘Blessed are those who mourn

                        for they shall be comforted.’

            He stands with the mourners

                        for his name is God-with-us.

Jesus wept.


  • Pray for those health care professionals who may be feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by the problems they face day by day…


  • Pray for healthcare workers in situations of conflict or poverty, where resources are scarce or unavailable…                                                                       


  • Pray for those involved in caring for people with mental health issues, especially where those issues are long-term


  •   Pray for new staff and for students starting new courses this month, particularly for those coming from overseas.


  • Pray for all who left at the end of last term and those who return…


  • Pray for staff and patients at Nevill Hall, Abergavenny;


for healthcare workers in places where there is war or communal strife;

for Health Care in Australia and the Pacific.


Living God,

 for the love that never fails; for the comfort of your presence;

for the grace that enables us to carry on;

 for the future full of hope;

and that we can come to place our trust and confidence afresh in you

we bring you our grateful thanks and praise

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,


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Health Care Prayers, July 2013

 What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword…?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35ff)


  • Take a few moments to rest yourself in the depth and strength of God’s love, to receive the comfort and renewal he gives…


  • In times of change and uncertainty, pray for the staff of HESAS: those moving on; those remaining through the ongoing change and readjustments; those still uncertain about their personal futures…


  • Pray for students in their placements, and new students preparing to join us in September


  • Pray particularly this month for the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, for its staff both medical and managerial, and for all who look to it as patients and families of patients. Pray for those caught up by the uncertainty around the Royal Glamorgan.


  • As this month we’re asked to pray for Health Care in Africa, Susan, one of the chaplaincy team will be in Ghana, among other things visiting a church run hospital in Winneba. In a town of 60,000 there are 4 full time doctors, and this is far from the poorest part of West Africa. Pray for those who have no access to free health care, or sometimes to any professional health care at all, and the health care professionals who seek to cope with few resources. 


Pray the Lord’s Prayer, asking that indeed God’s Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth as in heaven.

Lord, we long for the day when there will be an end to death and to mourning and to crying and to pain. Until that day, use us to make your healing love known. Amen

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Health Care Prayers June 2013

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus might also be carried revealed in our body…therefore we do not lose heart.  (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 and 16)

In a very realistic piece of writing, out of his own experience Paul describes Christians as those who are always going through it (and there nothing changes!) but never going under (at least not for long!). In times of strain and stress in all parts of the NHS, we come to find the resources God promises for ourselves, and to pray for others.

  • In the last decade visits to A&E have risen by 50%. Pray for all involved in caring for patients who come into A&E departments, for peace in the midst of the pressure, focus in the midst of tiredness, and protection from mistakes that the stress can bring


  • There are currently 107, 000 hospital beds, a fall of 1/5th in 5 years. With changes in social care policy, approximately ¼ of those beds are occupied by people aged 85 or over. Pray for those making decisions about resources for the NHS, and that there may be joined-up thinking across the Social and Health Care sectors.


  • Pray for all who work in the caring professions, and also for their families who often share the effects of the pressure.


  • Pray for nursing students on their placements, and for those preparing to join courses beginning here in September.


  • Pray for staff at HESAS: for those leaving this summer, that they may have a sense of direction for the future; for those remaining, that they may have a clear sense of priority as they cope with potentially increased work-load; and for those who carry the responsibility of leadership in the faculty on into the future.


  • Pray for all the patients and staff at Aberdare Hospital, especially for Christian staff, that they may carry the peace and compassion of Christ as they work.


  • Pray for all involved in Health Care in South America and the Caribbean, especially any known personally to you

haiti_health          Central America



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